Brexit or a New Brentrance? - RSA

Brexit or a new Brentrance?

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  • Picture of Leszek Sibilski
    Leszek Sibilski
  • Leadership

June’s referendum delivered what looks to some as an almighty blow to Britain’s future development. For others it signifies a new beginning and a reason to be hopeful. Anglophile and Polish-American sociologist Leszek Sibilski argues that optimism will win through and that Brexit will be only a part of the never-ending human migration.

It is not my intention to judge the British voters on their decision to exit the European Union; it was their sovereign verdict on the future course of their own country, and I fully respect their choice. Now, it is time to move on and look forward. As a native of Poland and a proud naturalised citizen of the United States, like many immigrants, I know something about exits and entrances.

In my sociology lectures about globalization much of what we explore is about human migration and social resilience. While Poland was under the control of the Warsaw Pact, it only had three neighbours in addition to the natural northern border with the Baltic Sea: the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic. Upon the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact, the People’s Republic of Poland became the Republic of Poland, and our neighbours disappeared from the maps. Poland now shares its borders with completely different countries namely: Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia. This dynamic process of the formation of new nations started in Poland with the Solidarity Movement of almost 10 million strong. I tease my students by telling them that Poland is pondering whether, for the sake of the Mediterranean Sea, it should get rid of the cold and polluted Baltic Sea.

These changes hailed a geo-political earthquake of biblical proportions, but the people of Eastern Europe survived it intact, and have thrived enjoying democracy and the free market. Likewise, post-Brexit, the people of the United Kingdom will find ways to move on. I am a big fan of the British people; they are highly competitive and if they stick to their values and traditions, this last month will only be remembered as an emotional hiccup in their very rich history. Somehow, I sense that the Brits will turn Brexit into Brentrance to a new future.

The day before the vote on leaving or remaining in the 28 nation block, I noticed a Facebook exchange between two of my colleagues: one of whom is British and works in Germany, and the other a French person working for the same company in the HR department. The French person jokingly wrote: “In case the UK is out of the EU please make sure to secure the permit for work by Friday morning”. The reply was funnier: “On Friday? You will be on strike!” Resilience and humor will make a huge difference in this British transition into separation from the EU. 

Another sociological phenomenon from the Polish exit from the Warsaw Pact was that most of those who fought for democracy and free market left Poland after achieving the ultimate goal: Poland free of communism. A massive West migration occurred, settling in West Europe or North America or even in Australia.

Once while on a long layover at Heathrow, I decided to have sushi, served by Polish waitresses in a Japanese restaurant. I am predicting the same development with some of the UK citizens who will be migrating in the same directions as the Poles did in the past with the great advantage of having excellent knowledge of British-English, which is highly appreciated around the world. The American entertainment industry and Hollywood have been dealing with this pattern for a while but for different reasons. We will see the disappointed Brits exchanging their expired EU passports for the Green Cards and US Passports. The great human migration still continues, and no wall or refugee camps will stop it. Mobility is the essence of humanity. Whether we like it or not, we have to always take it under our consideration. The young men and women from the islands will start their families away from the Crown, but knowing them they will remain loyal and proud to their tradition. 

Some politicians have predicted that the UK’s decision is the beginning of the end of the European Union. I would use a stock market term instead: this is only an adjustment; some nations will leave, some will stay and new nations will join the Union. Perhaps, the ‘unthinkable’ will happen sooner than later and Russia will join the European structures. While that now sounds fanciful, did anyone in Poland in the 1980s think that Poland would not only become one of the most active and credible members of NATO, but also graduate the status of a developing country with flying colors?


Leszek Sibilski is a sociologist and advocate for issues related to climate change, family, public policy, global poverty, youth, and role of women in society.

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  • Migration still continues. It's been going on for years. Whether we like it or not, it has to be accepted. Then there comes the word optimism. All we need to success is to be optimistic. Be proud of where you're coming from. Moving means change. It can be for good or bad. Most of us coming from another country come to the Unites States to do better, for opportunities, and a better life. I support and respect their opinion. Britain wanted new opportunities just like we all do. 

  • I believe that Brexit was not in the best interest of many people and really hurt the younger generation than people actually believe and perceive it to be. It really closes doors for many who have migrated there in order to flee their collapsing countries, but with this hopefully Britain will create greater influence and build its way up socially and economically. I think this decision can help bring an uprise to help migrants. In the end the world will be just as much as a melting pot as the United States, but only time will tell. 

  • The European Union has 28 member countries and they cooperate politically and financially. We all know that Europe has been in a big economic crisis and it is not getting any better. The UK is known as one of the richest countries in Europe. The UK  citizens had to think about them first than others later. Therefore they balanced the pros and con't of being a member of the EU. They found more pros than con'ts so they decided to left. They thought through this very carefully before taking that decision. So they know what they are doing. They know it is best for them.

  • I agree that there is fair chance that the Brexit has potential to become a Brentrance, depending on how it is dealt with. I also agree with Prof.Sibilski's notion that is it important to look at things with an optimistic perspective.  However, I cannot ignore the negative events that have taken place since the voting for the referendum,especially when looking at immigration.  Since the Brexit was voted for, there has been an extremely unfortunate rise in hate crimes against immigrants, especially Polish and Muslim ones.  Though good may come from this, we must not forget at what cost.  All in all, with the right intentions and correct amount of effort, humans tend to be capable of making the just about anything happen, and I have high hopes that much good will come out if the Brexit decision.

  • I remember reading about this vote but having little to no knowledge about Europe's politics. Even in America, I have some trouble keeping up to date with news as it changes every day. But from what I've gathered from this experience is that when Britain took this vote, many of them did not exactly know what they were voting for. It might seem a little humorous, for the day after it happened, some of the most searched topics on google were, "What is the EU?" or basically other questions referring to the referendum.

     Now at first glance, it may seem as though many aspects would completely knock the British world out of balance starting with the economy. According to a statistic from a month after the vote, the value of the pound has gone down from $1.50 to $1.30, nearly 13% already. In that short span of time, there have been changes to the economy with many fearing a recession in the years to come. This economic peril could cause a ripple effect with British employment and housing. What many don't realize is that there has been a slow down of the economy before the vote took place. What does this mean? 

    Well as humans, most of us usually expect the worst to happen, but in this case, we can use it to our advantage. If Britain can see the negative trends that could possibly happen, then it will be able to take precautions to avoid those undesired outcomes. Again, it has only been a few months since the vote and because the future is never really certain, we cannot be sure just how good or bad the decision was. Like in any new circumstance, it does not come easily; there will be bumps early on, but on a positive note, the issues will smoothen out and perhaps this change will be for the good. Perhaps what could seem like an accident, may be a blessing in disguise for Britain and definitely be a "Brentrance" to a better independent society. 

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